Succession and Sharia

In the recent Court of Appeal case of Northumberland & Durham Property Trust Ltd v Ouaha the court had to decide whether a Sharia marriage gave rise to a valid claim to succeed to a tenancy.

Mr Al-Faisal held a protected Rent Act tenancy of a Flat from Northumberland & Durham Property Trust Ltd, ("the Trust"). In 1987, Mr Al-Faisal married Ms Ouaha, in an Islamic marriage ceremony. There was no civil ceremony.

The parties separated in either 2002 or 2003 but continued living under the same roof. After Mr Al-Faisal’s death in 2010 the Trust, commenced possession proceedings and a possession order was made in November 2012. Ms Ouaha appealed.

The question for the Court was whether Ms Ouaha could be treated as a ‘surviving spouse’. The Court of Appeal held that Ms Oauha was not the spouse of the deceased tenant, that the term ‘surviving spouse’ necessarily involved a greater degree of formality than ‘living together as husband or wife’. As Ms Ouaha did not meet this requirement she therefore had no right to succeed to the tenancy. The Court also held that there was no discrimination issue. The Appeal was therefore dismissed.